Jitu Rai is someone whom you will rarely see complaining. He has been part of the Army Marksman Unit in Mhow from 2012, where there is no dearth of ammunition or any other requirement.
So when asked about to make suggestions to the task force that was set up by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the army man first mumbles a few suggestions and then requests the TV crews not to run that part of the interview. “I am from the army and I don’t think I should comment in this government matter,” was his plea.
Laid-back, yet focused, Rai has been enjoying this phase of his life. Having started as an unknown commodity in 2010, Rai has redrawn the parameters of consistency in pistol shooting.
In four years, Jitu etched his name in history when he won three World Cup medals in a space of nine days, a feat that was never accomplished by any Indian shooter. Starting with a silver medal in 50-metre pistol in Munich, he went to win the gold medal in 10m air pistol and also the silver in 50m pistol disciplines in Maribor.
The run continued at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games, where he won the gold medal in 50m pistol. And he won gold in the same discipline at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
Even when his form dipped in 2015, he had two international medals in his kitty. Solitary bronze finish in air pistol at the Changwon, South Korea World Cup in April,, followed by another third place finish at the Asian Air Gun that was held in New Delhi.
In the lead up to Rio Olympics, the 29-year-old won two in 2016 — gold in 50m pistol at the Bangkok World Cup followed by silver in air pistol in Baku.
It is this sort of consistency that forced the Award Committee to pencil his name for this year’s Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna even when they had decided that those winning medals at the Rio Games will be accorded with the same honour.
This year’s celebration will be a little toned down for the pistol shooter. A year ago, Jitu had surprised his mother. On the pretext of showing her New Delhi, he had brought her to the capital and broke the news of him being conferred the Arjuna Award. The army man will be alone as none from his family will be in attendance when he gets the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award.
“I may be joined by few from the army, family members will not be here” he said.